Sometimes, the best way to learn about life is to experience it first-hand.
That’s the lesson learned in the new animated preschool series, Doug Unplugs, which airs exclusively on Apple TV starting today. Based on Dan Yaccarino’s popular book series, Doug Unplugged, the story follows six-year-old boy-robot Doug as he and his best human friend Emma uncover how the world works.
“This is a show that’s all about the importance of balancing tech with experience,” executive producer Jim Nolan tells Parentology. Nolan and fellow executive producer Aliki Theofilopoulus, who are both animation veterans and parents themselves, say this emphasis on unplugging is a very intentional theme within the show.
“Tech isn’t going anywhere and it obviously has a lot of great aspects to it, so this show is about embracing that technology but using it to fuel curiosity and to encourage kids to go out and have an experience,” he explains.
While Doug Unplugs shows the benefits of combining technology with real-world experiences, it also illustrates that those experiences can be had right in your own home by using your imagination. Likewise, it focuses on the importance of feelings and emotions, even explaining how and why we (humans) express things like love.
“We really made sure that these characters are not perfect,” Theofilopoulus tells Parentology. “We let our kids have their feelings and we acknowledge their feelings in our show. We let them be examples of how they move through their feelings, get through them, and are okay [in the end].”
In a time when many are concerned about the social-emotional impact that digitization will have on this younger generation of children, Doug Unplugs reminds kids and parents alike that personal interactions and experiences are an important part of both learning and well-being.
These larger themes are made fun as Doug and Emma explore the human world. Where Doug is lacking in experience and exuberance, Emma is overflowing with energy. She helps Doug see the “why” behind a lot of human behaviors like having fun, volunteering, and even going to the beach. At the same time, Doug offers Emma practical information and thoughtful solutions to problems while being delighted in the nuances of all that the world has to offer. So, Emma gains insight from Doug by seeing things from his novel perspective.
“It’s not just the kids who learn, the parents make mistakes too,” Nolan says of Doug and Emma’s families. “I like that everybody learns a little something and I think that’s true in life. We were conscious that it wasn’t just the robots learning from the humans, we wanted humans to learn a little bit from the robots too.”
Doug Unplugs creates a full sensory experience for kids, utilizing not only animation, but music to teach valuable lessons as well.
“We realized we could take songs to impart the information we want to get across, but actually make that something fun that kids could look forward to,” Nolan says.
And while the show is fun and engaging, Theofilopoulus is proud of the larger message. “We’re literally bridging two worlds together in our show,” she says. “We’re bridging together these two ways of life — you could call them cultures. Bringing these two families together and just by seeing that on screen there’s really something wonderful for everyone.”
DougUnplugs is from DreamWorks Animation and premieres today on Apple TV. Learn more about Doug Unplugs on Apple TV website.